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Bangladeshi workers take the fight for a living wage to the streets

21 October 2009, Latest news

This weekend several hundred Bangladeshi garment workers formed a human chain to protest against poverty wages, urging the government to fix their minimum wage at Tk 5,000 per month.

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Tags: bangladesh | overseas work | sweatshops & plantations


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Stop private armies!

20 October 2009, Previous events

War on Want organised a stunt outside the British Association of Private Security Companies AGM in London this morning.
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On the front line

19 October 2009, Latest news

This weekend several hundred Bangladeshi garment workers formed a human chain to protest against poverty wages.

Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers' Federation, the trade union that organised the protest, stated that the monthly minimum wage must be raised to TK 5,000 a month so that workers can feed themselves and their families. The current minimum wage is Tk 1,662 per month, which is roughly £15.

While the NGWF focuses largely on changing national legislation, it also takes aim at multinational business practices, whose race-to-the-bottom tactics drive down wages.

The Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign takes its lead from grassroots organisations like the NGWF, a War on Want partner organisation which represents over 22,000 workers across Bangladesh. We support their efforts at achieving a living wage for workers, recognising that groups on the ground are best positioned to take forward the fight against sweatshop exploitation. You can show your support for their work by signing our call for an end to sweatshops in Bangladesh and all other parts of the world where workers are exploited for profit.

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‘Licence to kill for private armies’

19 October 2009, Press releases


London - Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Ex-British defence and home secretary John Reid - now group consultant to G4S, including ArmorGroup, which is hired by the UK government in Afghanistan - addresses the annual conference of the British Association of Private Security Companies

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs, Tuesday 20 October 2009

Government condemned for failure to regulate private military and security companies

WHEN? 8.45-9.15 am BST, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

WHERE? Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD (nearest Tube stations: Great Portland Street, Regents Park and Oxford Circus)

WHAT? A campaigner dressed as Gordon Brown will hand over money to "armed" mercenaries, as War on Want protests against the government's failure to regulate private military and security companies.

War on Want today condemned the British government for giving UK private military and security companies a licence to kill by refusing to regulate the industry. Campaigners from the charity will demonstrate this morning outside the annual conference of the British Association of Private Security Companies which takes place in central London.

War on Want will protest against government plans to let private military and security companies police themselves, despite widespread human rights abuses by mercenary troops. The demonstration comes as the government is due to announce the outcome of consultation on its proposal for a voluntary code of conduct overseen by the BAPSC, the industry body.

A keynote speech at the conference will be made by John Reid, the former UK defence and home secretary, now a £50,000 group consultant to G4S, including ArmorGroup, hired by the British government in Afghanistan and Iraq. ArmorGroup hit the headlines in August when one of its contractors shot and killed two colleagues in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

The protest takes place only days after the second anniversary of an incident in Iraq when guards from the British private military and security firm Erinys International fired on a taxi, badly wounding three Iraqi civilians near Kirkuk.

Amid hundreds of cases of human rights abuse by mercenaries, War on Want is spearheading the campaign for tough legislation, including a ban on their use in combat and combat support. The charity is calling for all PMSCs to be subjected to individual parliamentary approved licences. It is also demanding for any government ministry which outsources a service to a PMSC to be held responsible for the firm's conduct and for all allegations of human rights abuses by contractors working for PMSCs to be independently investigated.

As the war in Afghanistan escalates and UK prime minister Gordon Brown prepares to send more British troops to the country, War on Want warns that the government is spending millions of pounds on PMSCs and risking civilian lives in Afghanistan by failing to regulate the industry.

Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at the charity, said: "The government has ignored all regulatory options in favour of a voluntary code of conduct for private armies. This is giving a licence to kill to private military and security companies. The proposed voluntary code of conduct flies in the face of the growing consensus on the need to regulate this deadly industry. More lives in war zones will be put at risk unless the government acts to regulate private armies now."

The UK government has spent £148 million on PMSC contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last three years. The government currently has contracts with PMSCs in Afghanistan worth more than £42 million from the beginning of 2008 to the end of this year, more than twice the figure for Iraq in the same period.

With Britain having the second largest PMSC industry in the world. UK private military and security firms now operating in Afghanistan include Olive, PAGE associates, Saladin Security, AEGIS, ArmorGroup, Blue Hackle, Control Risks Group, Edinburgh International, Global Security and IDG Security.


  • The BAPSC was established in 2006 as an industry association body that works to promote the interests of private military and security companies. The conference will also hear keynote addresses from the former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Andy Hayman and Sir Jeremy Greenstock ex-UK special representative to Iraq
  • Earlier this year the government published a consultation on its proposed voluntary code for PMSCs. It has so far failed to announced the results of the consultation.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728


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A food fight with global implications

16 October 2009, Latest news

» Original article in The Morning Star

Friday is World Food Day. It's a UN initiative to raise global awareness about food security for the world's poorest.

And the issue of global hunger has never been more urgent. For the first time in history, more than one billion people live in hunger.

Each day 25,000 people starve to death or die from an illness caused by hunger. Shockingly, many of those who actually produce the food have been hit the hardest. Three-quarters of the world's hungry live in rural areas, of whom the overwhelming majority are farmers in poor countries.

While environmental catastrophes such as drought exacerbate the plight of the rural poor, the main causes of poverty and hunger in the developing world are man-made.

The economic hardship facing many farmers can be attributed to the free trade policy prescriptions championed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Even though they are unaccountable to the broader international community, these institutions wield enormous influence over the agricultural policies of developing nations.

To drive forward their strategy of "trade-based food security," the IMF and WTO have forced developing nations to open up their markets to food imports and reorient their economies towards an export-based system.

Exposed to direct competition from giant agribusiness, small farmers in the global south have struggled to stay afloat. And under the trade terms established by the WTO, agribusiness firms are increasingly able to sell their products to consumers in developing nations at a low price, undercutting small-scale farmers who rely on domestic markets.

As well as being thrust into competition with large farming firms, poor farmers are being squeezed by corporate sales practices. When farmers in the global south purchase seeds developed by corporations, they are often forced to sign a contract obliging them to buy fertiliser from the same firm, often at an inflated price.

Farmers have little choice but to buy crop products offered by Western firms. Under intellectual property rules written by the WTO, corporations now own 98 per cent of the patents covering vital farming inputs. Armed with patents for a vast array of seeds, livestock breeds and other essential organisms, agribusiness can dictate the terms under which local communities grow their food.

The most harmful range of farming products currently on the market are genetically modified (GM) crops. Promoted by agribusiness as a silver bullet in the fight against global hunger, GM crops are in fact more expensive to grow and produce poorer yields. Despite the harm these crops can cause, the GM revolution has gained momentum in recent years, leading to a massive boom for firms like Monsanto and Syngenta.

Although the export-based system of food production has kept millions of small farmers in poverty, world leaders have refused to try a different model. Instead, governments have invested heavily in projects that seek to train small farmers in poor countries as entrepreneurs to compete in the global marketplace.

Yet an alternative to the current approach is taking root. Across the developing world, grass-roots organisations are challenging corporate farming practices and the model of production for export.

Based on the principle of local control over resources, the food sovereignty movement prioritises the needs of small-scale farmers over the profits of big business. This new concept recognises that the key to fighting global poverty lies in community ownership, sustainable agricultural policies and workers' rights.

From Sri Lanka to South Africa, Brazil to Mozambique, these local organisations - many of them partners of War on Want - are successfully building communities of self-sufficient farmers.

A leading voice in the food sovereignty movement is La Via Campesina. With members across 56 countries on five continents, it represents millions of small farmers and gives them a political platform to challenge the corporate model for farming.

By promoting local alternatives such as community markets and farming collectives, these groups of small farmers are able to protect their livelihoods from the impossible demands of a world market whose rules are stacked against them.

They are also promoting organic methods as an alternative to destructive corporate farming products like GM crops.

Taken together, these measures will help define food as a resource to be owned and shared locally - and not as a commodity to be traded and profited from on the global market.

Jesse Lerner-Kinglake is Communications Officer at War on Want.

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Tags: food justice | overseas work


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24,000 emails say: end sweatshop labour

14 October 2009, Latest news

Thanks to your efforts, we have sent Britain's worst fashion companies a strong message - more than 24,000 of them, in fact. And their reaction has shown just what a difference you can make.

Britain's most profitable fashion companies have arrogantly ignored campaigns demanding that they stop exploiting the workers who make their clothes. Companies that didn't respond to Labour Behind the Label's questions in their report have been forced to answer due to your emails.

As 24,000 emails landed in the inboxes of the 15 bosses that were identified as the worst abusers of sweatshop labour, some of them finally gave in and issued a reply to the thousands of you who have written to them this week. John Lewis, Alexon and BHS have now at least acknowledged an issue that they had hoped would just go away - for the past four years they refused to even engage with Labour Behind the Label's investigation.

It proves that campaigning works. But there's a lot more we need to do. Many of these companies are still ignoring us, and even those who are not are still far from taking the action needed to actually solve the problem. So if you haven't emailed them yet, do so now. And if you have - take two minutes to tell your friends, family and colleagues to do the same. Because we know it works.

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10,000 emails sent … and counting

08 October 2009, Latest news

The pace of your work is unbelievable. Following the launch of Let's Clean Up Fashion 2009, we asked people to send emails to the CEOs of top fashion brands expressing outrage over their failure to ensure a living wage for their workers. It's been just 24 hours, but the heads of Asda, River Island, Matalan and other leading shops have been flooded with over 10,000 emails. Your response has been extraordinary - and it will make a difference.

We're doing our part. It's time they did theirs. But we need to keep the pressure on. If you haven't sent a letter to a CEO, do so now. And if you have, get your friends and family to participate.

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Free Mohammad Othman: War on Want demonstration

08 October 2009, Previous events

On Thursday 8 October, War on Want and students from Goldsmiths College organised a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in London demanding that Muhammad Othman be freed immediately.


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Tags: fighting occupation | palestine


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Bringing the Occupation home

08 October 2009, Latest news

» Original article in La Bouche

The last year has seen a huge shift in popular support for the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel. Yasmin Khan from War on Want explores what this campaign means and why it could be the most powerful strategy yet to bring peace and justice to the Middle East.

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Tags: campaigns | fighting occupation | palestine | profiting from the occupation


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Calls for a supermarket watchdog grow louder

07 October 2009, Previous events

On Tuesday 6 October, as Tesco announced its latest half-year profits of £1.4 billion, campaigners demonstrated outside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), calling on the government to introduce a supermarket watchdog.

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Top fashion offenders named

06 October 2009, Latest news

Overseas garment workers supplying UK shops have long been earning below a living wage. But what have British retailers done to improve conditions? Next to nothing, according to a new report from War on Want and Labour Behind the Label. Let's Clean Up Fashion documents how top UK fashion brands have trapped overseas garment workers in poverty - and have no coherent plans to address the situation. Read more about the report in a feature piece in The Guardian.

You know the shops that have been named. We've all been to Asda, tried on a top at French Connection or browsed the aisles at River Island. They're part of an industry that amasses more than £36 billion annually. But we cannot let them continue to get away with paying workers less than $2 a day.

We have the email addresses of the CEOs of the 15 worst offenders. Take action with us by writing them now to demand immediate steps for a living wage.

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Asda, Matalan slated over poverty pay

06 October 2009, Press releases

NEWS HOOK: Wednesday, 7 October 2009 World Decent Work Day

Clothes retailers head factory shame list

Asda and Matalan are today named as among the worst British retailers for trapping their overseas garment workers in poverty.

This accusation comes in a new report that cites their lack of any coherent strategy to ensure a living wage for people who make their clothes abroad.

The report (attached) claims there is no coherent strategy to ensure a living wage for workers making clothes for Asda and Matalan stores.

It also criticises nine other retailers for their failure to undertake any real work towards a decent wage - Bhs, Clarks, Debenhams, French Connection, John Lewis, River Island, Sainsbury's, Tesco and the Arcadia Group, which includes Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Topman, Topshop and Wallis.

The report - Let's Clean Up Fashion - is being launched today by campaign group Labour Behind the Label and anti-poverty charity War on Want.

It coincides with World Decent Work Day and a new campaign by trade unions and labour rights groups which demands a minimum living wage for all garment producing countries in Asia.

The campaign for an Asian floor wage seeks the same living wage throughout Asia to stop retailers driving down pay.

Research by War on Want found workers making clothes for Asda, Tesco and Primark in Bangladesh earned as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks.

The new Let's Clean Up Fashion study shows that retailers taking some action to end poverty pay are Gap, Next, New Look and Monsoon Accessorize.

But the report says that none of the 25 UK high street brands yet pays workers a living wage.

Its author, Anna McMullen, from Labour Behind the Label, said: "Many companies fail to admit that the prices they place on clothing and their own buying practices are to blame for the poverty experienced by those who make our clothes. Global buyers have the power to threaten to relocate production in the search for ever-lower prices. The downward pressure on prices lead to poor wages and keeps garment workers in poverty."

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Exploitation is still rife in the fashion industry, and our high street companies are responsible for it. There needs to be proper regulation to ensure fair treatment for the workers who produce our clothes. The British government must act now to end this abuse."

War on Want has launched the biggest-ever campaign to win a living wage for overseas garment workers.

The new Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops drive aims to collect 50,000 names calling on British prime minister Gordon Brown to regulate the industry.

It has brought support from public figures such as Strictly Come Dancing star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen, designer Betty Jackson and comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez.

People can add their names on the campaign's website at


Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

Anna McMullen, the report's author at Labour Behind the Label (+44) (0)7786 832035

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Supermarket watchdog needed now

06 October 2009, Press releases


Tesco announces quarterly results.

Government has less than 30 days to respond to the Competition Commission's recommendation for a supermarket ombudsman.

WHEN? 9.30 BST, Tuesday 6 October 2009

WHERE? Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET

WHAT? Campaigners representing a broad coalition of international development and environmental NGOs, including War on Want, Friends of the Earth, ActionAid, and Traidcraft are targeting the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. They are calling on the Secretary of State for Business, Lord Mandelson, to back the creation of a supermarket ombudsman that will protect suppliers from damaging trading practices, both at home and overseas.

HOW? Campaigners dressed as Tesco and Asda chiefs will stage a tug of war with gagged and bound farmers in the middle to show how suppliers in the UK and overseas are being squeezed by the unfair practices of our supermarkets.

Farmers - gagged and bound by supermarkets bullies - tell Mandelson: ‘Supermarket watchdog needed now!'

Consumer support for a supermarket watchdog culminates today as campaigners gather outside the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills in London. Over 60,000 people have taken action to support better supermarket regulation and campaigners will today hand in the latest 4,000 action cards calling on Lord Mandelson to establish a watchdog to stop supermarkets bullying their suppliers.

Time is running out for Lord Mandelson to take a public stance on the watchdog, with less than 30 days remaining before the deadline for government to respond passes.

The action takes place on the day that Tesco releases its latest half-year sales figures. Last year the retail giant made record profits of more than £3 billion, yet continues to squeeze its suppliers with devastating impacts on farmers and workers both in the UK and overseas.

In April 2008, following a major two-year inquiry, the Competition Commission recommended an enhanced Code of Practice for supermarkets policed by an ombudsman to prevent the ‘transfer of excessive risk and unexpected costs' on to suppliers which, the Commission found, would reduce quality and choice for the nation's shoppers if left unchecked [1].

Major supermarkets including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons rejected the opportunity to voluntarily sign up to an ombudsman. Now the decision is in the hands of the government.

A recent YouGov poll [2] shows that eight out of 10 shoppers support a supermarket watchdog, while over 180 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion backing the measure [3]. The Liberal Democrats endorsed the creation of an ombudsman at their party conference. Opposition leader David Cameron has also signalled his support for a watchdog, as has the Minister of State for Food, Farming and Environment, Jim Fitzpatrick.

Simon McRae, Senior Campaigns Officer at War on Want said: "Supermarkets in the UK are shamelessly opposing an independent watchdog that would prevent them bullying suppliers and investigate claims of abuse. The ball is now firmly in the Secretary of State's court to take on the supermarkets and back a watchdog."

Camilla Porter, Campaigns Manager at Traidcraft said: "This is the third inquiry into the groceries market in eight years which has found that supermarkets abuse their market position and suppliers and workers suffer as a result. The government should now follow the Competition Commission's recommendation and establish an ombudsman."

Helen Rimmer, Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: "UK farmers are being gagged and bound by the supermarkets who bully them into submission and blacklist those that speak out. With more than 4,000 British farming jobs lost in each year, we urgently need a watchdog to protect farmers, the environment and rural communities."

Dominic Eagleton, Policy Officer at ActionAid said: "Supermarket practices result in a perverse transfer of wealth from farmers and workers in poor countries to retailers in the UK. The ombudsman is a sensible response to this problem, but the question still remains - will Lord Mandelson side with poor producers and British shoppers, or cave in to the supermarket giants?"



  • Simon McRae, War on Want Senior Campaigner 07779146043
  • Seb Klier, War on Want Campaigner 07969791949
  • Helen Rimmer, Food Campaigner. Friends of the Earth 07940006783
  • Camilla Porter, Campaigns Manager, Traidcraft 07810678828
  • Dominic Eagleton, Policy Officer, ActionAid 07796683205

1. The final report from the Competition Commission on the Groceries market can be found here:

2. YouGov interviewed 2,124 people for the poll between 20-24 November 2008. The survey was carried out online and all figures have been weighted to be representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

3. EDM 560 for a grocery market Ombudsman has been signed by 183 MPs.

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Fashion and the financial crisis

04 October 2009, Latest news

After reading online recaps of the latest exhibitions, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the industry, shaken by the global meltdown, has only recently discovered the importance of shaving costs.

The truth is that the fashion industry has long been scaling back costs by exploiting workers at the bottom of the supply chain. To increase their profits, top clothing brands exert pressure on overseas suppliers to produce more clothing for the same price or less. This pinch on suppliers is passed on to workers, who are forced into longer hours for shockingly low wages.

We applaud the industry's embrace of recycled clothing and other eco-friendly initiatives that save money. But these efforts must not obscure the grim fact of sweatshops, and the harmful business practices of clothing companies that have made them a reality.

To learn more about how the business practices of top brands affect workers at the very bottom of supply chain, check out both of our Fashion Victims reports.

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Child labour exposé to premiere tonight

30 September 2009, Latest news

Tonight, BBC 3 will air "Kids for Sale: Stacey Dooley Investigates", a two-part programme by the anti-sweatshop campaigner that looks into the issue of child labour.

Stacey Dooley, who made a name for herself with the acclaimed "Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts" series, is a supporter of Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops. At the launch of the LFHS campaign, the TV campaigner spoke about the importance of signing our call for an end to sweatshops.

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